The UK government outlined their ambitions relating to the domain of wellbeing and health, in a range of publications including:
- Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS (Department of Health, 2010a);
- Healthy lives, Healthy people: our strategy for public health in England (Department of Health, 2010b);
- A vision for adult social care: capable communities and active citizens (Department of Health, 2010c)
At the time of writing the related Health and Social Care Bill 2010-2011 is currently before parliament.
Stakeholders in the city where I work have responded to these changes as an opportunity for a step-change in the way in which we organise ourselves to work together to improve wellbeing and health and reduce inequalities in health. Senior leaders of the main statutory partner organisations have agreed to what is locally referred to as “a whole system approach” to the implementation of these changes.
This situation is important to me because I am one of a small team of people who is designing and facilitating the processes through which we will deliver these changes. I experience the situation as one characterised by interdependencies, complexity, uncertainty, multiple perspectives and controversy. It therefore seems appropriate to approach this work systemically.
Although local stakeholders are not specifically using the terms “learning” or “social learning”, there is a general consensus that ‘more of the same won’t do’ and that we need to do things in new ways. According to Schon (1973, 6), “a social system learns whenever it acquires new capacity for behaviour”. This is not just about individual cognitive learning, it includes changes to the meanings, norms and institutions that shape behaviour in groups, organisations and society as a whole. To be able to do things differently, we need to learn and, in my view, part of the work we do in implementing our upcoming changes needs to focus on creating the conditions for that learning to take place.
I am really interested in hearing what readers think of this situation and the need for social learning – please leave a comment using the ‘leave a comment’ facility. Please note comments will not appear straight away because they come to me first for moderation (to protect against spammers). Thank you.
Department of Health (2010a) Equity and excellence: liberating the NHS, HM Government, London. Source http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_117353 [accessed 13 March 2011]
Department of Health (2010b) Healthy Lives, Healthy People White Paper: our strategy for public health in England, HM government, London. Source http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publichealth/Healthyliveshealthypeople/index.htm [accessed 13 March 2011]
Department of Health (2010c) A vision for adult social care: capable communities and active citizens, HM government, London. Source http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_121508 [accessed 13 March 2011]
Schön, D.A. (1973) Beyond the stable state pp.30, 116 – 179. The Norton Library, W.W. Norton and Company INC, New York reprinted as Chapter 1 in Blackmore, C. (Ed) (2010) Social learning systems and communities of practice, The Open University/Springer, Milton Keynes/London pp. 5 – 16